Pinhook, MO (1927-2011): A Black Ghost Town

Pinhook, MO was a small town about 8 miles west of the Mississippi River, founded in 1927 by a group of black sharecroppers. The low lying land was among the only places that would sell to them, but this location would also put them in harms way during flood season.

Five years later, the Army Corps of Engineers built the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway to ease the annual flooding along the Mississippi River. The floodway, when used, put the excess waters directly in the path of the town. (ProPublica).

At its peak, the tiny village housed about 250 people in the 1960's, but a series of floods in the 1970's would put the village in significant decline, and the population had fallen to less than 50 by 2010.

The towns fate would be completely sealed in 2011, when historic flooding along the Mississippi River threatened Cairo, IL downstream. After the river reached 61.7 feet and sand boils began to develop along the Cairo levees, the decision was made to open the floodways for the first time since 1937.

Jan 30, 1937 --- "Ohio (River) Flood Level Far Above Cairo Streets" --- Water is within three feet of top of levee protecting Illinois city as expected crest of 62 feet is awaited. Associated Press 

Residents of wealthier communities in the floodway sued, but with levees on the verge of collapse, the floodways were opened. Pinhook residents were given very little advance warning, and soon the village was under fifteen feet of water.

"A home in Pinhook, Missouri. When the Army Corps opened the floodway, the town was destroyed and its residents have struggled to recover. (Darren Hauck for Reveal News)" [ProPublica]

After the flood receded, residents were given no relocation or emergency assistance, and any remaining structures were looted. Residents eventually relocated to nearby Sikeston, abandoning the village, making it a fairly recent example of a ghost town. By 2015, the last remaining building in Pinhook was demolished, making it one of several examples of majority African-American ghost towns in Missouri.

Rubble seen through the doorway of what was once a church in Pinhook. Ryan Schuessler (Al-Jazeera)


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